life and b.s.

Right at the beginning of June, I invited some friends who had been around at a very difficult time in my life to go on a special tour of David Culp’s gardens at Brandywine Cottage in Downingtown. It was a thank you and a celebration of an important personal milestone: being 10 years breast cancer free. June 1, 2011 to June 1, 2021.

If you know women who have had breast cancer, each year we get extra is a blessing. Milestones like this are extremely important to mark, and I wanted to say thank you to some of these ladies, most of whom I have known since high school.

It was also another celebration and milestone. This also marked all of us finally being able to get together because of COVID-19 and we all finally had our shots. The ladies who came with me like to garden.

Pete Bannan photo 2011

One of the friends was Caroline O’Halloran who is the creator and chief writer at Savvy Main Line. She was with me and some other friends on Tuesday, July 13th, 2011 when I rang the bell at Lankenau Hospital where I had that morning finished up a few weeks of fairly grueling radiation treatment with Dr. Marisa Weiss.

When it was all over and I rang the special bell signifying the end of treatment, my friends cheered. A hospital administrator chided us for being too loud. (It was pretty funny.)

At the end of the day, I am very much alive with a terrific prognosis for a long and happy life. I am one of the lucky ones. I have lost friends to cancer including breast over the past decade, so I learned to stop and breathe and celebrate the milestones.

For a decade now I have been part of the sisterhood – women of different races, ethnicities, ages, sizes and shapes –forever bound together by this disease. It’s like the club no one asks to join. And you damn well celebrate the little victories.

I chose a garden tour.

I also invited someone whom I am pleased to call a friend for the past few years, who wasn’t with me that day. She just happens to be a woman I like and appreciate. You all know her as a Chester County Commissioner – Michelle Kichline. We have a lot of friends in common and have for years and years, and we share common interests like the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and a love for gardening.

Caroline wrote about the visit to David’s amazing gardens on her website a few weeks after the visit. It just happened because he and his gardens inspired her and struck a chord. Of course that doesn’t surprise me because David’s book The Layered Garden has been a huge influence on me personally. When I read his book it was like I had this epiphany that someone who really is a plantsman and horticulturalist gets how I like to garden. I don’t even know what printing the book is on, but it is really special.

Michelle posted the article on her page a couple of weeks ago. She also included how she loved the gardens and what a fun and just nice day it was. It’s true, it was just nice. I thought that was super sweet of her, and I was happy to have her with us.

But as is the case with social media, up rolls a jerk:

I have been called many things in my life, but “rich white people” has never been one of them. But apparently, we are all a bunch of “rich white people” who have an “eye” for horticulture according to this….well….a random white guy.

Are we to surmise that random white guy must have a political axe to grind with Michelle for whatever reason, and is also a garden critic? Ok he doesn’t have to like the garden, but his vitriol was unnecessary and unwarranted.

We all like to garden. David opened his private home garden to us on a very special anniversary for me. This day was a big deal to me. Michelle is allowed to NOT be a politician once in a while and just enjoy girl time.

I think we need to hit the pause button. We have come through 2020 into 2021 and a lot of us still have friends on both sides of the political aisle and that is ok. And that is what that snotful comment on Michelle’s page was about: politics. I don’t know what, and I don’t know why, and don’t care. WHY? Because all she was doing was sharing something nice.

I am a gardener. I love to garden. And random white guy? I do my own gardening and I earn my own money to pay for my gardening. I am hardly some heiress with a fainting couch. I even cook and clean and take out the trash.

Truthfully this is why I don’t share cool experiences on this blog sometimes like seeing David Culp’s garden. So instead a friend shares what another friend wrote about just a lovely day and we are suddenly bad people? That’s just wrong. And I say that as someone who can and does take politicians to task. But there is a time and a place for everything, and being a dick about someone talking about a nice visit to a special garden is not one of them.

But hey what do I know right? I am just a mere mortal and a female, and these are obviously just the rantings of a suburban housewife.

Cheers!

pickling peppers…and tomatoes

I just put up some peppers because I’ve been growing a bunch of different chili peppers all summer.

This is the base recipe I used from A Taste of Home.

You know I can never do a recipe straight, so I will let you know that to my brine I added pickling spice and dill. And a little red pepper flakes because I want hot peppers. I processed them in a hot water bath and I had brine left over for five small jars of pickled tomatoes. I just used the same brine but threw in dill and basil into each jar for the tomatoes.

I don’t know how everything will taste when everything is all pickled up, but I can tell you the brine smelled awesome.

Of course I didn’t pay attention while handling my chili peppers and my hands feel slightly as if they are on fire and I won’t be touching my face anytime soon.

Something I did not expect this year is how much canning supplies have gone up in price since COVID-19 came to visit. We have paid a premium for so much for so many months. But I am guessing that a lot of people are almost homesteading because we’re all home so much more.

I may do more pickled tomatoes as it gets in to fall but I have to decide if I am making apple butter or some kind of a jam this year. Ideally I would like to do fig preserves but I don’t know if any of my friends will have extra figs I can buy from them yet, or if I will be able to source them locally at a farmers market.

When you pickle things they look so lovely in the jar. I know that sounds weird but they just look nice.

Happy Sunday all!

east whiteland have you been over to flat road lately?

Reader submitted photo

3:30 PM UPDATE: From the chair of the East Whiteland Supervisors Scott Lambert (who like many others is having a hard time posting to Facebook today):

📌The original requirement of the builder was to renovate portions of the wall that had fallen in disrepair and remove a few trees that could endanger the wall in the future. However,with the wall now
leaning badly and in danger of collapse, the builder agreed to rework the wall and replace broken sections to return it to original condition. As with the initial work review the descendants of people buried in the cemetery were consulted as was our engineer and historical commission representation. An agreement with the contractor concerning the scope of the work was also executed.📌

EARLIER:

There is a historic cemetery on Flat Road. It seems to be in peril. East Whiteland Township approved a development plan there and wasn’t one of the things supposed to be that this cemetery (which I believe is Amish) would be protected?

Social Media post that appeared with photos

I don’t have the answers. And someone said well maybe they’re doing work on it. And this doesn’t look like work to me this looks like a wall collapse. A lot of these walls do collapse and I saw one not that long ago at a church in Upper Uwchlan and then they rebuilt the wall. When they rebuilt the wall then you could see they were telling people to stay away from it and using caution tape until it was set.

Reader submitted photo

The other thing to consider is a development is being built next door and vibrations from heavy equipment can affect old structures and that includes walls and headstones etc. doesn’t it?

Reader submitted photo

I don’t have the answers, but I do know that East Whiteland needs to go look at this. This is literally a historic site, and it matters. #thisplacematters

Reader submitted photo

Walls fall down. But this is a historic site. So again, something needs to be done sooner rather than later. This is a sacred place. And our historic sites should be as respected as much by municipalities as the developments they constantly approve.

Stay cool it’s so darn hot out there.

Reader submitted photo

PS: I am adding more photos here at the bottom that were just sent to me by concerned residents!

facebook and censorship…. as in is facebook practicing censorship?

Yes (and unbelievably), Facebook is removing my gardening blog posts.

As my readers know I also write a gardening blog called the nightgown gardener. I started that blog because my readers asked me to have a blog just about gardening. I don’t make money off of it, I don’t get special favors because of it, it’s just writing about gardening. Like this blog I pay for it to be ad free.

As my readers know gardening is a passion of mine. So I share my knowledge and my tips and my sources and my resources and photos of my actual garden on this blog.

The times we live in gardening is a happy thing. It brings you closer to the earth, it brings you peace of mind , it lets you express yourself artistically and even grow your own food. and I have been sharing my garden rating since I started doing it both on this blog and my gardening specific blog.

Writing about gardening is not controversial it’s nice. And we need more nice in this world. So why on earth is Facebook censoring me? I don’t have the answer to that question but they are censoring me. For some unknown reason, starting yesterday, they started REMOVING and BANNING anything I had written about GARDENING.

Meanwhile Facebook allows cybercrimes to occur daily like cyber stalking and cyber harassment and fake news and heck even porn to pollute it. They allow racist propaganda and all sorts of other nasty things that you can think of yet they ban happy things like writing about gardening?

It makes NO sense. I am not a monetized blogger I don’t even promote my blog post with Facebook ads. I just share what I’m doing in my garden on my garden blog . And somehow that is a bad thing?

Facebook and their algorithms are all sorts of screwed up. And there is no one you can contact or talk to about this. Well I’m not taking this line down.

Their algorithms are actually in fact practicing censorship, then they need a serious makeover.

Mark Zuckerberg I know you won’t be reading my blog because you don’t care about anything other than all the money you are making, but you should you say you wanna make the world a better place and gardening is one of those things that accomplishes that.

Facebook is wrong here. They had this issue in March.

Yes, in Facebook’s fakakta wisdom, sharing about gardening is bad. Maybe they should fix their algorithms and “weed” out the bugs.

#EpicFail #FacebookHatesGardening #FacebookHatesGardeners

Below are posts Facebook removed. Please give them a read and I’m curious if you all think they go against “community standards“?

this and that

facebook hates gardeners now?

frost report

wandering the garden

welcome to my homeless plant encampment

Of course part of me wonders if Facebook has a problem with WordPress all of a sudden? At the end of the day I don’t really care why it’s happening I only know it shouldn’t be happening. Gardening and cooking are happy things in a world that is filled with COVID-19 nastiness right now.

Here’s hoping Facebook gets their act together.

pickling and canning and preserving or…what to do with green tomatoes.

I realized the other day that I had a lot of green tomatoes. My inner gardener knows they aren’t going to ripen in time. So this morning I harvested them.

I washed all of the green tomatoes and also harvested what was left of my chili peppers.

I then sorted them by size.

Meanwhile, I sterilized my canning jars.

Then I prepared the brine for the pickled tomatoes.

The brine wasn’t particularly complicated. It was pickling salt, pickling spices, extra mustard seed, a little bit of sugar, white vinegar, and water. I brought it up and left it on a low simmer.

Meanwhile I put a little bunch of fresh dill, a garlic clove, and some onion pieces in the base of each jar. To that I added the smaller tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes. And every jar also got a few chunks of cut up chili peppers.

The smaller tomatoes I either halved or quartered depending on the size, and the cherry tomatoes each got pierced from end to end like they were going to go on a skewer so the pickling brine is absorbed into them.

I ladled hot brine on top of each jar of green tomatoes. On top of that I laid another sprig of fresh dill and one more clove of garlic.

I then put the lids on the jars and placed them in a hot water bath for 14 minutes. The pickled tomatoes are now cooling on a table. When they are completely cool I will tighten down the lids and store them where I store other preserves in the basement.

Next comes the green tomato chutney. The brine pickling liquid that I use for this is comprised of a couple of cups of malt vinegar, pickling salt (but not much like a teaspoon and a half), 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon, a few tablespoons of diced crystallized ginger, nutmeg, a couple of tablespoons of mustard seed, a tablespoon of pickling spice, and allspice. To make it slightly different I also grated the rind of two limes I had and also added their juice.

I put that on low so the sugar dissolved add to that I added probably about 5 pounds of chopped green tomatoes, the remaining few chili peppers chopped up, five chopped fresh plums I had leftover, three chopped apples, one diced onion, I also added a little chopped fresh fennel I found had sprouted up in the garden because the chutney recipe calls for fennel seeds and I didn’t have any. Also, I added a little over a cup of golden yellow raisins as well. If I had had the green raisins I use with curry I would have added those as well.

I cooked the chutney down for about an hour maybe a little more, and then sterilized some more jars. I filled the chutney jars gave them their hot water bath and now they are cooling on the counter.

I still have green tomatoes left over unbelievably! I am guessing fried green tomatoes are in my future at some point.

I will note that I use the pickling salt for both the pickled tomatoes and the chutney because it keeps things from getting cloudy.

Happy Friday!

my franklinia tree is blooming

From the Missouri Botanical Garden:

Franklinia alatamaha, commonly called Franklin tree, typically grows as a single-trunk tree with a rounded crown or as a multi-stemmed shrub. As a single trunk tree, it can grow to 20’ tall or more, but is more often seen growing much shorter. Camellia-like, cup-shaped, 5-petaled, sweetly-fragrant, white flowers (to 3” diameter) bloom in late summer to early fall. Each flower sports a boss of egg-yolk yellow center stamens. Narrow, oblong-obovate, glossy dark green leaves (to 5” long) turn quality shades of orange, red and purple in autumn. John Bartram was appointed Royal Botanist for North America by King George III in 1765. In that same year, John Bartram and his son William discovered franklinia growing in a 2-3 acre tract along the banks of the Altamaha River in southeastern Georgia. Franklinia has never been observed growing in any other place than along the Altamaha River. In a return trip in 1773, William Bartram collected seed from this site and brought it back to the Bartram’s garden in Philadelphia where the tree was successfully grown. This tree has been extinct in the wild since 1803. It has been perpetuated in cultivation (all plants derive from the seed collected by Bartram) not only because of its rarity but also because of its attractive flowers and foliage. The current genetic base of this plant is quite narrow in large part because all plants currently in existence in the world come from the materials collected by the Bartrams. Franklinia belongs to the tea family and is closely related to Stewartia and Gordonia (loblolly bay). It is not known why this tree disappeared in the wild. Land along the Altamaha River was cleared for cotton plantations leading to one theory that a cotton pathogen found in the soil (carried downstream through erosion) was the main cause of the extinction of the colony. Other extinction theories include decline from climate change, destruction by man, single colony of plants was not genetically diverse enough to withstand pathogens or changing conditions, or a local disaster (flood or fire).

Genus name honors Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American printer, scientist, philosopher and statesman.

Specific epithet name has an extra “a” in it (apparently because of an alternate spelling for the river when the tree was named).

I love Franklinia trees. My old neighbor Johnny had one…until a drunk driver drove up onto his lawn and front garden and bulldozed it down. His tree was about 12 feet tall and I remember at the time the insurance adjusters from both sides didn’t see it as a big deal.

To a plant lover, it was a big deal.

It was. Franklinia trees are notoriously hard to grow, so once you get one established you celebrate the lovely little tree discovered by John Bartram and named in dedication of Benjamin Franklin.

It’s root system makes it persnickety and this is a tree that hates being moved or transplanted. Which means when you find the perfect spot in your garden, it must stay there.

Where mine is planted I wasn’t sure how it would fare. This was a bed I reclaimed from the crazy forsythia that tried to swallow parts of our property whole for 50 years or better. Yes off on a tangent, but I hate forsythia with a burning passion. It should be labeled an invasive plant.

But I digress.

When I reclaimed this particular planting area and one immediately adjacent I started with digging out as much forsythia as possible. Then there was the soil to deal with. This area of my gardens has heavy clay content. So bags of sand, bags of grit, leaf mold, mushroom soil, dehydrated manure, green sand, gypsum.

And I am still adding amendments every year at this point and still digging out forsythia. This week alone when I was planting two Bayberry bushes in the right corner of this bed, I had to amend the soil again and I dug out more forsythia and two five to six foot sections of root that were as wide as my wrist!

Franklinia trees like well drained soil. As per Fine Gardening:

Grow in organically rich, moist but very well-drained soil of acidic to neutral pH, in full sun. Resents transplanting and should not be disturbed in the landscape.

My Franklinia tree seems to be growing well with red rhododendrons, hydrangeas, a pair of blueberry bushes and various herbs and perennials. This is it’s first year to bloom since I bought it at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia. Could I have bought it elsewhere? Probably but it seemed fitting to literally buy it from the source.

My tree came from Bartram’s Garden spring plant sale. There is a fall plant sale at their upcoming honey festival September 8th from 10 am to 4 pm.

I had been watching my Franklinia tree bud for a couple of weeks and this morning I went to take a peek and the lovely soft white flowers are starting to open. My tree is small so I am so happy it is happy and blooming.

And that is the thing about gardening: how happy these small triumphs after lots of hard work make you feel.

Enjoy the day! It’s beautiful outside with a nice little breeze.

rose obelisks are in place!!

I love my David Austin English Roses. But even the ones which are NOT climbers are truly vigorous growers. The ones I chose ALL seem to have a very rangy growth habit.

I started out a few years ago with fleur de lis trellises from Achla Designs. They come in two sizes.

For a couple of years they worked nicely. But the roses outgrew them completely. And I do prune my roses.

So these trellises have been moved to assist other plants. They are brilliant to stake tomatoes with, especially if you grow tomatoes in large pots like I do. They give this tepee shape which beans and tomatoes like.

I hunted for obelisks for a while. Some seem quite flimsy and others overly expensive.

I settled on the Jardin Round Obelisks from Gardener’s Supply Company.

I assembled the first one during a heatwave. Big mistake. Mostly for me wrestling with a large rose bush in the heat.

You have to put it on a section at a time as it comes in pieces. But as is the case with trial and error, I learned after assembling the first one that I needed to basically tie up the rosebushes as much as possible with garden tape. (It’s made out of green vinyl, and I use it for things that I stake or need to have tied during the growing season.)

The first obelisk I put together still seems a little wobbly to me and I need a good soaking rain to push it down into the ground more.

But I have now assembled four of these obelisks and I did have to trim my roses back (and some canes broke too) to get them on but now they have more freedom growing through these and are less restricted as was the case with the trellises I was using.

I really like the uniformity they present in the garden and I think they add a nice element. They also are not going to drive me crazy having to look at them in the winter when nothing is growing.

I will be honest and say it took me 2 1/2 or 3 hours to assemble and place three of these yesterday. (and if you buy them make sure you are wearing gauntlet gloves when assembling them and wrestling with the rose bushes to place them!)

I also had another kind obelisk thing I tried that was shorter and more squat that also came from Gardener’s Supply that was an epic fail. It arrived defective and missing parts and it’s a little finial top didn’t even fit the thread it was assigned to. It’s called the Jardin Birdcage Support. Save your money and don’t order it. It’s cheaply made and went into the recycling.

Of course in the middle of all of this I discovered a rabbit’s nest under a shrub. I wasn’t looking for the nest they literally started screaming at me because I was too close to the nest. And yes baby bunnies sure can holler!

Gardening is always an adventure!

Now that the temperatures are becoming more temperate it’s time to get back to the business of weeding and cleaning up my flowerbeds. Because fall planting season is just around the corner.

Happy gardening!

summer sauce

I made this yesterday and everyone keeps asking for the recipe. There isn’t one per se but here’s how it evolved:

2 lbs of ground sausage sautéed in olive oil with 2 sweet onions, 6 mild/medium chili peppers, 2 long hot peppers, 5 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes from the garden halved, sea salt to taste.

Next I added a huge handful each of fresh basil and oregano from the garden and a 10 ounce package of fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms chopped up.

Cook on medium low and stir a lot until sausage is cooked through.

Add two cans (28 ounce) of canned tomatoes- what I had on hand was crushed, add 1 small can of tomato paste (6 ounce size), and a good dash of red wine or red wine or balsamic vinegar.

Reduce heat and allow to burble on the stove, stirring frequently for at least another hour. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. I didn’t find it needed it.

This is the kind of sauce that if I had fresh eggplant, that would have been peeled and chopped up and added as well.

It’s not complicated and it’s easy to make your own homemade sauce. The chili peppers came out of the garden as well and the end result was a flavorful but NOT a spicy sauce. It just tastes fresh. It will be dinner later this week over spaghetti or some shape pasta. Serve with a salad and you are good to go.

Easy summer dinner.

Leftover sauce can be frozen.